Thomas Cook A330 Landing into San Francisco for the final time.

LONDON — The rescue hopes for ailing Thomas Cook seem to fade, as the global travel group is hours away from possible insolvency.

While the last negotiation efforts with the bank and shareholders still ongoing on Sunday evening to save the company, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is set to launch a repatriation program, the biggest ever in peacetime, to provide return flights for passengers abroad if the last negotiation efforts don’t come to fruition.

Meanwhile, airlines specialized in leasing and air charter are deploying their aircraft to provide support to the CAA. An estimated 600,000 Thomas Cook customers are currently abroad, 150,000 of them are UK nationals.

The collapse of Thomas Cook would put 20,000 jobs at risk, including about 9,000 in the UK.

While Thomas Cook is 178 years old, its airline division is relatively young. Formed after the merge of Flying Colours Airlines and Caledonian Airlines as JMC Airlines in 2000, JMC was rebranded as Thomas Cook Airlines. Following the merge between Thomas Cook and MyTravel Group, MyTravel Airlines merged into Thomas Cook Airlines in 2008.

Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavian, and Condor merged into a new division in 2013. The group, known as Thomas Cook Group Airlines, is where the airline stands today.

Thomas Cook Airbus A321 departing Innsbruck. (Ryan Taylor)

Thomas Cook Airlines operates an all-Airbus fleet of 34 aircraft, broken down to 27 A321s and seven A330-200s. Historically, the airline has operated Airbus A320s, which were transferred to Thomas Cook Balearics. In the past, the British airline also operated the Boeing 757-200 and -300, as well as the Boeing 767-300(ER). However, the 757-300s were transferred to Condor.

Condor Boeing 757-300 landing into Gatwick. (Ryan Taylor)

Despite passenger numbers increasing every year since 2015, and the airline business proving to be profitable, the profits were invested in the failing holidays division, which is ultimately the cause of the financial issues that keep Thomas Cook at the verge of bankruptcy. Earlier this year, Thomas Cook tried to sell the airline, although it failed to find a buyer.

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